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Felix Krull: Hour of the con men

Alexander Eisenach’s Felix Krull opened this season of the Berliner Ensemble. Believe the lies for yourself Sep 3, 8, 19 and 26.

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Alexander Eisenach’s Felix Krull opens with Krull (played by a mesmerising Marc Oliver Schulze) hitting a slanted set in a dapper tuxedo, violin on chin. It takes only two notes to notice that he’s not playing but pantomiming to a recording, deceiving the audience from the get-go. And if that sounds on-the-nose, it is. Theatre and acting are acts of deception, after all. Eisenach’s adaptation uses Thomas Mann’s final protagonist to explore deception in a 21st century context and is less telling Mann’s story, or really not at all, than using episodes of the character’s life to prove that lies are the stuff of life (Instagram: a disconnect from what’s not in the photo or a chance for people to live out all sorts of identities?). Even the stage design itself is a con: the original set drops halfway through to reveal a floor-to-ceiling funhouse of an evil clown face behind a hall-size light-up scoreboard – “POW”s and stars blinking during a fistfight on stage. And it just gets more absurd from there, ending in a bathtub orgy of body paint. It’s blunt, at times clumsy, and doesn’t say much we haven’t heard before, but the excellent ensemble manage to make the slapstick charming instead of cringy, landing every laugh they are going for, making it easy enough to deceive yourself into having a good time.

Felix Krull: Die Stunde der Hochstapler Sep 3, Sep 8, Sep 19, Sep 26, 19:30 with English surtitles on Sep 8